Understanding the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and what you can do to mitigate the risk of poisoning in the workplace and at home.
Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas that is both odourless, tasteless and colourless. Carbon monoxide is found in combustion exhaust fumes of fuels that contain carbon, such as wood, coal and gasoline. In spaces that have poor ventilation with appliances and engines, carbon monoxide can accumulate to dangerous and poisonous levels.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colourless and odourless gas that interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen around the body. One-part carbon and one-part oxygen, carbon monoxide is produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. These energy sources are not dangerous if they are burnt in an area with adequate ventilation. However, carbon monoxide is hazardous when it is released into the air of confined spaces.
Appliances or engines that are not adequately ventilated, particularly in tightly sealed or enclosed spaces, may allow for carbon monoxide to be produced and accumulate to dangerous levels.
Inhaling carbon monoxide can cause serious chronic health problems; high levels of carbon monoxide in enclosed spaces may cause people to pass out or have their organs shut down. When there is too much carbon monoxide in the air, the body replaces the oxygen in red blood cells with carbon monoxide, which leads to serious tissue damage and in severe cases, death.
When you inhale carbon monoxide, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This switch prevents oxygen from reaching your tissues and organs, providing that feeling of fatigue that is common with carbon monoxide poisoning.
When carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream, it replaces oxygen and can lead to serious tissue damage, or even fatality.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be challenging to detect because the symptoms are often confused with those of fatigue, the common cold or the flu without the fever symptoms. Carbon monoxide poisoning can immediately be alleviated by leaving the area and consuming fresh air; however, if symptoms are severe, emergency medical treatment is advised.
The longer your inhale the gas, the worse your carbon monoxide effects will present. The effects associated with CO poisoning include losing balance, vision, memory, and consciousness. The most common carbon monoxide poisoning effects and symptoms include:
• Dull headaches
• Weakness in muscles
• Nausea or vomiting
• Blurred vision
• Shortness of breath
• Loss of consciousness
Wondering “how do you check for carbon monoxide?”, the answer is simple: A carbon monoxide detector.
To keep your house or commercial estate safe, it is imperative to have the appropriate detectors installed to sound an alarm when dangerous levels of gas are present. Between a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, and a natural gas detector, it can be difficult to understand the necessity of each device and which are the most important.
A carbon monoxide detector is a device the identifies the presence of carbon monoxide gas to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide detectors are the fastest way to prevent CO poisoning.
Carbon monoxide detectors are designed to measure CO levels over time and provide an alarm before dangerous levels of carbon monoxide accumulate in an environment; giving people enough warning to ventilate the area or immediately evacuate safely. There are several different types of carbon monoxide detectors that will use varied approaches to identify carbon monoxide in the air:
• Biomimetic sensor technology works the same way that carbon monoxide affects the haemoglobin in the blood. A biomimetic sensor relies on a gel that changes colour as it absorbs carbon monoxide. A separate sensor picks up on the change and alerts the detector’s processor to sound the alarm.
• Metal oxide semiconductor sensors use circuits applied to a silica chip. When carbon monoxide comes into contact with the circuitry, it lowers the electrical resistance. The processor detects the change and will set off the warning alarm.
• Electrochemical sensors use changes in electrical current to detect carbon monoxide. Electrochemical sensors use electrodes immersed in a chemical solution to identify carbon monoxide and are often used in professional detecting equipment to identify dangerous levels of CO instantly.
Carbon monoxide alarms alone do not detect propane, methane or natural gas leaks. The idea that carbon monoxide will pick up on regular gas leaks is a widely experienced misconception.
It is a widespread misconception that a carbon monoxide detector will pick up on natural gas leaks. Carbon Monoxide detectors and natural gas detectors are not interchangeable. Carbon monoxide alarms only detect poisonous, odourless by-products from burning processes called carbon monoxide – natural gas will NOT be detected by a carbon monoxide detector.
In comparison to carbon monoxide, natural gas is a relatively safe, efficient and convenient source of energy. However, if natural gas operations are improperly installed or maintained, gas leaks can become a health risk and a source of danger on your property. In addition to health risks, natural gas leaks carry explosive potential due to the highly flammable nature of the gas. Despite not being as deadly as carbon monoxide, detecting natural gas leaks is crucial to maintaining the safety of your property.
Natural gas is one of the most popular energy sources for Australian homes, mainly used for cooking and heating. Often, natural gas companies will put an additive in the natural gas to give it a distinct odour; this is what makes it easier to detect a gas leak than a carbon monoxide leak.
Flammable gas detectors actively monitor for flammable gas (LNG, LPG, Methane, Propane), usually providing an audio and visual warning when the factory preset alarm level of gas has been exceeded.
Gas monitors use various sensors to measure the levels of each gas that is being detected. Sensor reactions and readings are prone to drift over time, along with exposure to different gaseous environments. To ensure all gas leaks are appropriately detected, regular carbon monoxide calibration and servicing is required as per the manufacture’s recommendations.
Newcastle Safety Servicing are the leading experts in gas detection calibration and servicing. Fully qualified and experienced in the maintenance of a wide range of makes & models, Newcastle Safety Servicing work to ensure that your equipment is functioning at its optimum performance & reliability levels. If you’d like to learn more about gas detection maintenance plans and gas detector servicing, get in touch with one of our technicians today.